And now for something totally different: the Ripper 29, produced by Slingshot Bikes. It’s so different that I’m not even sure where to begin this post. I mean, it’s got a cable instead of a downtube. And there’s a spring. And fiberglass. What’s going on here?
The Ripper 29 is a very unique looking bike.
The Ripper is Slingshot’s aluminum XC bike. Obviously, the Ripper 29 is the 29er version, and that’s what I have to review. The frame retails for $1,099 and can be purchased directly from Slingshot. They also offer complete bikes and you can get them with whatever components you want. If you don’t care to pick and choose every single part they also offer several stock build options. I’ll be reviewing the frame, not this particular build, since you can get the bike however you want. Mine is a 20″ frame, has a White Brothers Rock Solid rigid carbon fork, Velocity Blunt wheels, Schwalbe Racing Ralph tires on both ends, a 3×9 mostly SRAM drivetrain, and a very slick looking (mainly carbon) FSA SL-K cockpit. It weighs in at 25.96lbs ready to ride, including the water bottle cage and the Crank Brothers Candy pedals.
The Boom Tube is big, beefy, and super stiff.
Now, About That Cable
The cable is the heart of the bike, and what makes it so different from everything else on the trail. Instead of a downtube there is a stainless steel cable with a spring. The top tube (or BoomTube as they call it) is connected to the rear triangle via a flexible fiberglass board called the Dogbone Flexboard. The cable, spring, and flexboard are part of the Sling Power system – you can read all the details about how it’s supposed to work here. The short version is it’s supposed to do two things:
1 - Store some pedal input and release it during the dead portion of the pedal stroke, providing smoother power delivery
2 – Get small boosts of speed riding over bumps
Close up of the spring. The bracket surrounding it allows the cable to pass through the spring and cause it to work in compression.
To be honest, looking at the bike and the claims of Sling Power, it’s hard not to be skeptical. For one thing it looks like the bike would simply fold in half when you get on the brakes hard – cables don’t provide much resistance to compressive forces after all. The bike looks so radically different from anything else on the market it just makes you wonder. That said, Slingshot Bikes have been around since 1982, so if it’s all just smoke and mirrors you’d think they’d be long gone by now, so maybe there’s something to it.
The Dogbone Flexboard holds the Ripper’s front and rear halves together.
I’ve had one real trail ride on the bike so far, and I’ve got to say, the Ripper doesn’t ride like it looks. I thought it would buck up and down, but it’s surprisingly stiff and rides, well, like a bike, not really any funny business going on. In fact, one of the first things I did after unpacking the bike was to do a stoppie and see if it would fold up on me. As you can see below, that Dogbone Flexboard is pretty dang stiff! The carbon fork flexed a whole lot more than the frame did. I’ll be riding this bike hard for the next month or so and will report back with a final review then. I may even let a few other local riders try it out and get their thoughts on it.
The fork flexes a lot, but the frame is way stiffer than I imagined it to be. Not sure why I look like Quasimoto…
Special thanks to Slingshot for lending me the bike for the review.
The lower cable connection. The seat tube is a big beefy T-shaped tube.
I like the clean, simple, understated graphics.
The headtube badge is pretty sweet too.
Tire clearance isn’t spectacular, but should be plenty for the bike’s XC intentions.
One drawback of losing the downtube: only one water bottle cage mount.